M-Go: A Postmortem

On March 30, Fandango successfully launched its new premium VOD service, FandangoNOW, a digital content offering the Comcast-owned company hopes to be a one-stop shop for all things movies.

It also marked the end of M-Go, a joint venture run by DreamWorks Animation and Technicolor that managed several industry firsts during its short, four-year-old life, including 4K streaming, virtual reality and the inclusion of advanced audio codecs.

“With the addition of M-Go, we'll be able to accelerate the ticketing momentum achieved in a record-breaking 2015 by creating compelling new digital products that serve consumers throughout the movie lifecycle,” Fandango president Paul Yanover said in January after his company acquired M-Go. “We’re excited to start working with our studio and exhibition partners to bundle theatrical tickets and home entertainment products in the form of 'super tickets,' gifts with purchase, and other promotional offers.”

M-Go was first announced at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), with the service partnering up with Intel, Samsung and Vizio to get the ball rolling, with all three agreeing to carry the M-Go app.

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Part of M-Go’s uniqueness was it was among the few digital services at the time that offered bonus features, and that if M-Go didn’t have a piece of content available, it would direct users to other digital services (iTunes, Vudu, Amazon, Netflix, etc.) that did. M-Go also employed a system that learned from user ratings, making recommendations based on what they liked and disliked.

And, maybe most importantly, M-Go sought to position itself as one of the few transactional VOD services (rental and purchase) available at the time, one that would be a better friend to the studios than the subscription VOD services like Netflix.

As 2012 progressed, Technicolor and DreamWorks Animation partnered up with five of the six major studios (with Disney taking another year to sign on), announced that new releases content would be available the same day as DVD and Blu-ray Disc, and would have content enabled with UltraViolet, Hollywood’s buy once, play anywhere digital ownership service.

“M-Go’s unique offering has allowed us to secure business wins with the leading companies and decision-makers in both the technology and entertainment industries,” M-Go CEO John Batter said at the time.

After DreamWorks Animation, Starz and Relativity Media all added their content to the service, M-Go finally launched in beta at the 2013 CES, via both downloadable apps, embedded apps in hardware and at mgo.com.

Toward the end of 2013, M-Go would get into the original programming business, launching a free, four-part “Dinner & a Download” series, featuring cooking demonstrations by celebrity chefs Richard Blais, Ben Sargent, George Duran and Paulette Goto.

Finally, after about a year of negotiating, M-Go would close out 2013 by inking a deal with Walt Disney Studios, including content from Disney, Pixar, Marvel and DreamWorks Studios. That agreement was paired with an announcement that M-Go was launching a new iPad app allowing for offline viewing of content.

To open up the 2014 CES, M-Go made a major announcement: it would partner with Samsung to become the first digital distributor to upscale content to 4K and stream it on Internet-connected Samsung Ultra High-Def (UHD) TVs. The service promised to allow viewers to stream 4K content without using up too much bandwidth. That news was followed a few months later that Samsung would kill its video service — Samsung Video — and would partner with M-Go instead.

In August of 2014, M-Go saw its CEO from day one, John Batter, leave the company to join music and video metadata company Gracenote, as CEO.

M-Go in September, 2014 announced it would bring a new virtual reality video browsing app to the Samsung Gear VR, allowing users to browse through movie and TV content in a VR environment. The app would launch in December.

To kick off 2015, M-Go announced a partnership with imaging technology firm Beamr to reduce streaming video bitrates for high-def and UHD content. And in February of that year, M-Go became the first streaming service to offer content with DTS Headphone:X, a surround sound codec that worked with any set of headphones.

In June 2015, M-Go would become one of the few digital retailers to push Bollywood content, adding dozens of Indian films, some available in 4K.

When it was announced in January of this year that Fandango was acquiring M-Go from DreamWorks Animation and Technicolor, M-Go had well over 30,000 titles available for rent and purchase.